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The story of who wrote the music for "My Melancholy Baby and Aafter a period of just about a century (1911 through 2011) remains intriguing. Ernie Burnett is the commonly credited composer. In fact, his having written the music, according to the Wikipedia article on "My Melancholy Baby" and Philip Furia's and Michael Lasser's book American's Songs wound up saving him from possibly permanent amnesia and loss of identity. Apparently Burnett had lost his memory (as well as his dog tags) after being wounded in WWI. Only when the song was played by a pianist who had come to the hospital to entertain the injured troops did Burnett's memory return. On hearing the melody, He jumped up and said, "That's my song!" and thus recovered his his identity.
According to another source, Burnett also failed to recall that someone else wrote the muscic. *Although Ernie Burnett is commonly credited with composing the music for "My Melancholy Baby," The obituary for Ben Light in The New York Times , Jan. 9, 1965, contains the assertion that Ben Light, not Burnett, actually wrote it.
According to Light's son, a Hollywood producer, his father wrote the music for George Norton's words but because the song didn't become popular until many years after it was written Light never bothered to assert his claim. As time went on and the song emerged as a standard, Light's friends urged him to sue and so he went on the radio in the early Forties and explained the circumstances under which he had written it. He also collected affidavits to support the claim but as the lyricist George A. Norton had already died there was no way to obtain the final proof and the suit did not proceed. The obituary quotes Light's son as saying, "All I know is my father never received a penny from the song."
We are not aware of any corroborating evidence for Light's claim, but it would seem his family believed it. The greater portion of his obituary is devoted to the supposed facts of the case.
Nobody has taken issue with actor William Frawley (most well known for playing Fred Mertz on "I Love Lucy") who has stated that he was the first to perform the song in public while appearing at The Mozart Cafe in Denver, Colorado in 1912. For a listing of other notable live performances, see the Wikipedia article.
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The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet: Selected Recordings of
"My Melancholy Baby"
(All Record/Video Cabinet entries
include a music-video
of this page's featured song.
The year given is for when the studio
track was originally laid down
or when the live performance was given.)
(*indicates accompanying music-video)
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Performer 2 (year)
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